I went to the KL International Airport earlier today to send off my cousin as she went for a holiday with her husband. There, I noticed dozens upon dozens of young girls and boys. After observing the way they dress, it clicked on me that these young people were scholarship students going overseas to study. They are of my little sister’s age.
I became overwhelmed by emotions, seeing all those faces full of anticipation, hope, pride, mixed with anxiety and sadness. Those faces of the students, and their families.
I was like them too, fifteen years ago. Only I was not on a scholarship.
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I wish you the best for your journey. Your journey there, journey of searching for knowledge, searching for experience. You are in for an opportunity in a lifetime that many others were denied of.
Please remember that most of you are going there with people’s money. Not even your own parents’. Please remember that there are many others who worked harder than you for this, but did not have the same opportunity.
This is a priviledge, and you know, the more priviledges you have, the more responsibilites you’d bear.
You were sent there to learn.
No, not only to study engineering, medicine, architecture, law or all else that they sent you to college for. By all means, study and perhaps try to do well, but there are many other priceless lessons that you could only take from studying overseas.
Please mix around with as many people as possible. I know, it is a lot more comfortable to be close friends with your own ‘kind’, but get to know the others too.
You will see that the people there are more colourful than over here in this country. We have been fed with the idea that we have such a harmonious multiracial country, but you should see their colours. You should listen to the languages they speak. You will perhaps finally see all the shades of white, yellow and brown that exist in this world. You shall learn that in the end, we all yearn for the same love and deserve the same respect. We all respond the same way to a warm smile and a kind helping hand. We all have dreams and aspirations. We all struggle to achieve those dreams, all in our own way. A person’s dreams is as important as the other.
Explore their country, and the neighbouring ones. Learn to save and travel, because not many things teach you more than travelling (and reading). Look at their nature, and how they conserve it. Take home the good things, and learn lessons from their worse habits and systems.
You are there to diminish all the discriminatory thoughts that may have been planted by some people in this country. No, you are not special. You are not extra talented. You were perhaps just lucky to be born where you were to those parents. You have God to thank, and you owe it to yourself to become a humble person. You shall one day come back to our country and help demolish racism, to strive for equality.
Speak to others. Learn about their struggles. The Pakistani taxi driver, the Bangladeshi shopkeeper (who most likely have worked in our country before), your Norwegian classmates, the people whose ancestors come from their country. Read their papers. Learn how the locals react to immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants. What are their worries? What are their hopes? What are their misconceptions?
Please don’t just go there to shop. Don’t just go at the popular tourist spots and take nice photos to put up on your Instagram. Please don’t carry that mantra of “this is cheaper than back at my own country” and end up knowing only that after years being there.
More importantly, don’t come back and turn up your nose at everything in this country. And don’t stay there after you have graduated and criticise the country as if you have ever worked here. Don’t stay there just because you heard rumours about the working conditions here. You went there to learn independence, and some leadership. So come back and bring winds of change to the country.
In the end, this exercise of learning should help you get to know yourself. On top of getting to know and appreciating fellow human beings around you. It should help you to realize where you stand in this world – that is shoulder to shoulder with the rest of humanity. Not above, not below. It is only by facing the challenges of the world outside, that you could understand who you are inside; your strengths, your shortcomings.
Only after knowing those two, then you are on your way to be a successful human being, who would serve the people around you, as much as you could.
For the best person is the one who could benefit others the most.
So good luck, adik-adik.
And happy learning.